Interview by Alexandra Tillotson
Eliot Lipp’s album release party for Shark Wolf Rabbit Snake at Mercury Lounge on June 29th welcomed an amazingly eclectic audience that mirrored the artist’s dynamic sound.
Bekim, the opening artist, brought dubstep and d’n’b fans out to play, but it was obvious that Lipp was the main attraction when he stepped onto the stage. The artist commanded attention from everyone in the room - from the bro in a polo, loafers, and khakis to the very posh lady in a sexy backless blue dress.
Lipp’s entire set, which was performed with a live band, broke the invisible boundary that seems to stand between instruments and electronic production. Seeing a producer work so directly with a drummer, keyboardist, and guitar player on stage challenged the way we listen to and enjoy electronic music.
Lipp’s sound on his Shark Wolf Rabbit Snake varies from the funkadelic yet synthy “The Shark,” to the heavy beats in “On n’ On,” which was the obvious crowd pleaser (the heads were nodding emphatically). Each song seemed to have its own identity and could easily be listened to separate from the album, but when you listen to the tracks together — that’s when the magic happens.
As Lipp said in our interview, “I enjoy music in so many different parts of my life that that’s what I struggle with a lot. Do I want to make a club track or do I want to make something that’s fun to listen to?“
With Shark Wolf Rabbit Snake, he no longer needs to ask that question; you can listen to this any and everywhere.
Luckily for us at Joonbug, Eliot Lipp was able to take a moment to discuss his inspirations and experiences with his music before he went on stage.
Alexandra Tillotson: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I listened to your new album and I loved it. And I have to ask, where did the title Shark Wolf Rabbit Snake come from?
Eliot Lipp: It was the name of the drawing. My friend had a drawing of the Shark eating the Wolf eating the Rabbit. I saw that and I was like “I want to use that for my cover,” but I didn’t know what it was called so I just asked him what he titled it and I figured I’d just use that for the name of my album.
I did that with my last album too. It was the same way, I saw a painting and then I used the title of the painting for the name of the album.
Alexandra Tillotson: Did the painting in any way inspire part of the music?
Eliot Lipp: Yeah, basically, I had 15 or 20 different sketches of songs that I was working with and when I saw that painting, it made me want to get a batch of them that were really cohesive and that were inspired by the painting. I was already working on some tracks, I saw the painting and said, “Oh, that painting reminds me of what I’m working on,” because they’re cartoony, but aggressive. And I was trying to make heavier tracks, but still do it my way — real synthy and melodic with samples. It just felt like the right way to go about it, so it was half and half. Once I saw the cover art and had it in mind, I started catering the songs to try and make them all more around that idea.
Alexandra Tillotson: Did any other artist or any other event in your life influence the sound in this particular album?
Eliot Lipp: Well, there were the four title songs, Shark, Wolf, Rabbit, and Snake. When I originally gave that record to Derek, the guy that runs Pretty Lights music, those were little 30-second interludes and he said, “You should make those into full songs.” He really wanted me to make those into full-on tracks, so I went in and took weeks to finish all of those. But I was glad I did because those are kind of my favorite ones now.
Alexandra Tillotson: Did you have any kind of struggles while you were trying to complete the album?
Eliot Lipp: Oh yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of material. I was doing a lot of shows while I was making the record. I was trying out a lot of material and when I’m playing out live, you can see what the crowd responds to.
When you’re playing a track that people have never heard before, the real obvious build-ups and drops, people get into that, but some of the subtleties — if they don’t know the song, they’re not excited about it, because they’ve never heard it before, you know? Or it’s hard to get people stuck on a song they’ve never heard.
When they get the album, they have their favorite song on the album and then when you play that one, they freak out. It was a challenge, trying to decide how much I wanted to try to cater to making these tracks to play live and have that energy and so that they work in the club, but at the same time making an album that’s good on headphones, in the car, and when you’re listening to music around the house.
I enjoy music in so many different parts of my life that that’s what I struggle with a lot: Do I want to make a club track or do I want to make something that’s fun to listen to? That’s probably the main challenge that I was having with that record.
Alexandra Tillotson: Speaking of songs that you would listen to in the car versus songs you would listen to live, what are your favorite songs to record and to perform, or are they the same?
Eliot Lipp: Actually there is one that I feel the same way about: “Gettin’ Money” that I made with Michal Menert. We had so much fun recording that track!
We were supposed to do this festival in Long Island. We went up there and it was pouring down rain. They had to actually cancel the festival because they thought that with so much mud people would just like trample the festival grounds. So, we drove back to New York and we were like “So, what should we do?” We went in the studio, I plugged in the mic, and he’s beatboxing and singing. We were just sampling all this different shit, put it all together, and we made the majority of that song in just one evening. That’s also the one that when I play it out, people get down to it the most. You know, I love playing that song out because it’s like, I don’t know, it grabs you right away. It’s got a good bass line and I see people’s heads start nodding right away when I play it.
Alexandra Tillotson: Definitely. Tell me a little bit about where you’re next headed with your music. I know you just started your tour, you’ve got dates lined up—what are you most excited about?
Eliot Lipp: Some of the dates are with a live band like tonight, my first date with a live band. So I’m really excited, I’m really nervous, but [laughs] I’m really excited about that and I feel like that’s where I’m headed.
I’ve done a lot, for the last year or so. I’ve done most of my shows along with a drummer and now I’ve added a keyboardist and a guitar player; I really like going in that direction. I really want to put together a full band and see what comes from that, you know?
I’m always trying out different things with the live set, some things stick and some things I move on from. I’m thinking more into live music and operating more live instruments. That’s definitely what I want to do this year.
Alexandra Tillotson: I know the new album is available on Pretty Lights webpage for free download and that Pretty Lights has made all of his music available for free, what inspired you to do that as well?
Eliot Lipp: That was part of the reason why I was drawn to his label. I feel like it’s a kind of a futuristic way of putting out your music. You just stop focusing on making money off of mp3s and just accept that people are downloading music for free.
It’s a good way to get publicity—just to get your stuff out there for free, because people are way quicker to download something if it’s free. You’re playing live shows and why not give away the record and then just hope that people come to your show when you come to their town, you know?
I’ve seen how it worked with Derek. I’ve done a lot of singles and stuff, where I’ve released it for free and then I would notice that the songs I gave away for free were the highest selling songs on the album and I’m thinking, that’s so weird because we’re giving them away for free. It helps get the word out about the record. It’s cool.
Alexandra Tillotson Well, before we wrap it up, is there anything you want to say to your fans and supporters?
Eliot Lipp: Thanks for the support and stay tuned.
Eliot Lipp’s new album is available at Pretty Lights Music/therecordlabel.